The construction of the Olson Memorial Highway significantly contributed to the racial and social inequities the Near North community continues to face. The destruction of Sixth Ave N was the first major step in the continued design of displacement in this largely community of color, tearing at the fabric of vibrant communities and compounding issues of equity and access to jobs and essential services.
Our communities have spent decades of deep relational organizing and years of engagement, the residents of Harrison, Heritage Park and Near North have the expertise and solutions to make the asks of our communities a reality. Getting from one place to another cannot be a given for some — and a daily challenge or impossible barrier for others, and no one should be risking their lives to walk to the library, community center, or bus stop. Quality transportation choices are not just a fundamental civil right that is owed to our communities, but necessary for our region to thrive, and with the Blue Line Extension project no longer going through our corridor, we must acknowledge the harm the community has faced from delayed and broken promises.
After nearly a decade of planning, Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council abruptly announced in August 2020 that they were abandoning negotiations with BNSF to bring transit access to the Near-North Minneapolis neighborhood along Olson Memorial Highway. Given the years of time and input our community had invested in the process along that corridor, we were deeply troubled to learn that the project would be re-routed as the light rail itself was sold to the community as a reparative investment in response to the decades of intentional design through transit planning and infrastructure projects that caused our neighborhoods harm.
Despite years of engagement sessions and surveys, the agencies who designed the highway destruction that paved the way to redlining, segregation, and decades of other harmful impacts have refused to repair the harm that was done. Our community comes together once again and is demanding accountability and reparative justice for the detrimental impacts residents continue to face linked to both the construction of the highway in itself and it’s continued use today. We are calling for the following:
We will continue organizing until the Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority Executive Director Abdi Warsame, the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County and relevant elected officials and partners give a public commitment to:
- Transformation and Reconstruction Phases 1 and 2 as listed below
- Attending a Public Forum hosted by Harrison Neighborhood Association and Our Streets Minneapolis
Phase 1: Immediate Improvements to the Olson Memorial Highway Corridor
- Transformation of Olson Memorial Highway to include all of the following treatments between Upton and Lyndale:
- Restripe the roadway to the following configuration in each direction: 6' bike lane, 11' dedicated bus lane, 11' general purpose lane, 11' general purpose lane with dedicated left turn lanes where adequate right-of-way exists.
- Lower the posted speed limit to 25 mph
- Improve lighting for pedestrians
- Mark crosswalks at all intersections and mid-block crossings
- Add leading pedestrian intervals and adjust walk signal timing to everyone, including people who are mobility impaired and parents with small children, have adequate time to cross the street.
- Use visual indicators, including artist designed crosswalks, to mark pedestrian crossings
- Use paint and bollards to add pedestrian bump outs on cross streets
- Put all of the adjoining parcels of publicly owned land from Upton to Lyndale Ave in a publicly held land trust
Phase 2: Bring Back 6th
- Reconstruction of Olson Memorial Highway into a restored 6th Avenue N boulevard and commercial corridor. The reconstructed street should feature the following elements:
- One general traffic lane in each direction with dedicated left turn lanes where appropriate
- A transit way featuring full-time dedicated bus lanes
- Protected bikeways
- Wide sidewalks to accommodate street facing retail
- Put the remaining right-of-way in the publicly held land trust. This land will be used to rebuild a walkable 6th Avenue North commercial corridor.
- The creation of training programs for community members to be hired during the transformation, reconstruction and development phases of the highway
- The creation of an incubator program for local neighborhood talent to develop independently owned businesses along the corridor
- Affordable housing units that reflect and meet the needs of the community. This includes the construction of new public housing units to accommodate our residents’ growing need for truly affordable housing, with priority and preference given to current Harrison and Near North residents, residents who were displaced due to the initial Blue Line route announcement, and former residents of the Sumner-Field, Glenwood, Lyndale, and Olson public housing communities.